I write this with apologies to Chris Lamberti, The Third City’s sports blogger.
Baseball in Chicago has been exciting this year. For Cubs fans, that is. We White Sox fans are the ones living with disappointment on the diamond. At least we have our security blanket, the World Series victory of 2005.
The security blanket of Cubs fans is so old, it was actually made in the USA. So, good for them, it’s about time those poor souls had something to cheer about in September. These young Cubsters have a bit of magic about them and that’s an important ingredient in having, well, a magical season.
I grew up a Sox fan. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, my neighbors were Cubs fans and they were loud and boorish. I didn’t care for them so I certainly wasn’t going to root for the same team they did. Secondly, the year I became aware of baseball was 1959, the year the Pale Hose ended a 40 year drought and went to the World Series.
What an introduction to baseball that was. They were dubbed the Go-Go White Sox, a team built on speed, defense and pitching. Players with names like Little Looie, Big Klu, Jungle Jim, Nellie, Sherman, Bubba, Turk and a star pitcher with the apt moniker of Early Wynn!
Both Cubs and Sox games were televised on WGN back then and Jack Brickhouse was the announcer for both teams. I was more interested in watching the Sox play but, being a young rabid baseball fan, I watched the Cubs as well. Mostly because when I came home from school and flipped on the old Magnavox, it was the Cubs since they played only day games.
The situation was almost always the same. There were two outs in the ninth inning and Ernie Banks was up at bat. The camera would zoom in on Mr. Cub’s grip on his Louisville Slugger as his fingers waggled and wiggled while awaiting the pitch. Then Ernie would fly out deep to left field to end the game or hit a home run into the left field seats to either tie it or bring the Cubs within one run. Rarely did it win the game because rarely did the Cubs win games.
Ernie Banks was pretty much all I knew about the Cubs and all I cared to know about them. It’s not that I hated the team, it was just that I wasn’t interested in them. If they won, fine. If they lost, big deal. Now, if the Sox lost, it was a big deal, even bigger than if they won.
The White Sox would have made it to the World Series in 1983 but for that goddamn Tito Landrum. That name still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Then, I had to live with the near successes of the Cubs in 1984, ’89, ’98, and 2003 while my team only made a couple of runs at the post season until they won it all in that golden season of 2005.
This year is looking pretty golden for the young Cubs team. Ya just never know. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if they did make it all the way to the World Series. It would finally quench the long parched throat of north side baseball fans, many of whom have never tasted champagne.
Yep, good luck to you, Chicago Cubs. I hope you make it all the way to game seven. But, do not expect me to root for you to be victorious. I must cast Civic Pride, Curse-breaking and Century of Non-Progress sympathies aside because, first and foremost, I am a Sox fan.
I’m sure you’ll understand.
Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Mr. Roberts & Me…
The White Sox are well on their way to a fourth consecutive losing season and seventh in the ten years since they won the World Series.
I write the Sox front office weekly to complain about their futility, and threaten to boycott my annual three to six games in the upper deck next season.
Also I include a selfie to demonstrate my Sox agony. Weeping, wrapped in my life-size Chris Sale Fathead. Or sullen, as I sit disheveled and unshaven, clutching an autographed Frank Thomas 8×10 glossy. Or eating my scorecard from a 2005 playoff game, the pencil jammed in my temple.
The team has responded with nothing except the number for a licensed therapist and a note that reads “SEEK HELP.”
Obviously I’m not being taken seriously. So I have an idea to up the stakes.
Let’s threaten to move the White Sox to St. Petersburg, Florida.
Why not? We taxpayers own the ballpark. We don’t have to put up with this suckage.
St. Petersburg is the city where owner Jerry Reinsdorf threatened to move the Sox thirty years ago if he didn’t get a ballpark deal.
Then Illinois legislators literally stopped the clocks before a midnight deadline to pass a stadium agreement lucrative enough for Reinsdorf and the White Sox to agree to stay.
Unfortunately, there is no win-total clause anywhere in the deal.
Is a playoff-baseball guarantee such a crazy thing to ask of a team getting its stadium for free?
Some politicians want poor people to jump through hoops like drug testing to get a few measly dollars in state aid. Why can’t we force the White Sox—backed by billions in government appropriations—to win some ballgames?
Let’s call Jerry Reinsdorf and say, “Mr. Chairman we want the Sox to win at least 90 games next year. If not, you’ll be moving to Florida. We have a deal all worked out with the city of St. Petersburg. They’re looking forward to hosting White Sox games at Geritol Field behind the local Moose Lodge.”
We won’t be unreasonable about it. If the Sox are one win away and the last game of the season goes into extra innings, we’ll stop the clocks before the deadline to give them every opportunity to play their way into staying.
My guess is, when properly motivated, the Sox will become a playoff team. And if they’re not, St. Pete can have them. A losing ballclub is a luxury this city, and my gentle psyche, can’t afford.
And while we’re at it, L.A. can have the Bears.
For those who don’t follow the NFL, Los Angeles is the city where teams always threaten to move if local governments don’t cough up big bucks for new stadiums.
I don’t think L.A. really wants an NFL team. They’ve had teams before and it didn’t go so well.
But if L.A. is truly pining for a pro football squad then let them have ours.
The Bears got hundreds of millions of dollars for Soldier Field and we got more bad quarterbacks and more suckage.
Let’s have sack races in the stadium eight Sundays a year instead. It’d be more entertaining.
I think I speak for Chicago sports fans everywhere when I say that we have the seeds of a movement here.
The “No Bucks for Suck!” movement.
All we need now is a manifesto. I’m on it.
Right after I call this therapist.
Editor’s Note: Chris‘ last post for The Third City was Cubs Report…
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I received a copy of a book, The Minicomix Revolution 1969-1989 by Bruce Chrislip. It’s a fat tome, 462 pages, and chockful of pictures and historical data about cartoonists, in particular those who were involved in the minicomix revolution.
If you don’t know what that was, don’t rely on me to explain it to you, at least not here. Look for the book.
I am mentioned in this publication because I was one of those revolting cartoonists. Hmm, there must be a better way of wording that. Ahhh, editing is for saps.
Modesty prevents me from repeating all the gushing hyperbole spent on describing my work plus I’m not very good at making things up but there is one little part that interests me enough to mention it. This is the line, well, lines.
“One of his earliest efforts was Mimeo Graff Laffs done in conjunction with Tom Roberts. It dates back to December 1973.”
What astounds me is that the writer should even know about the existence of Mimeo Graff Laffs. It was indeed drawn on mimeo paper and run off on a mimeograph machine, hence its witty and archaic title. I don’t recall how many copies we ran off but it had to have been in the vicinity of 10-15 copies. 20, tops.
Somehow, it got into the hands of Mr. Chrislip who, at the time, lived in Ohio. We were in Chicago. To paraphrase Fats Waller, one just never does know, do one?
The “we” involved in Mimeo Graff Laffs was not, however myself and Tom Roberts. It was myself and Tim Roberts. I can understand the mistake and can accept it as well because Tom Roberts and I were partners for a long time in another creative venture, the comic strip Cultural Jet Lag, that ran in the alternative press (mostly) throughout the 1990s.
For the record, Tim Roberts and Tom Roberts were not related. Ken Roberts, who partnered with Tom Roberts on a series of comic books entitled Anti-Social Comics, in the 1980s, were not related to one another either. Ken Roberts was also not related to Tim Roberts. In fact, they do not even know one another.
However, Tim Roberts and Tom Roberts did meet each other once. I was present at this historical encounter. It was at The Midwest Film Conference in 1981. I was there with Tim and we happened upon Tom. I introduced Tim Roberts to Tom Roberts and Tom Roberts to Tim Roberts and I am pleased to say that neither was confused. In fact, despite both wearing the same names, they were very cordial to one another.
But that’s not all!
At various times and in various venues, I have worked with Tim Roberts, Tom Roberts and Ken Roberts. Not all at the same time, mind you, but I have worked with each and every one of these Robertses, both vocationally and creatively.
Pretty weird, eh? I guess there’s just something about a Roberts boy.
You should try one some time. I’m tellin’ ya, you could do worse.
I’m supposed to be some kind of baseball expert. At least that’s what I said when I was trying to land a job at The Third City so I could score babes.
Then I got the job and remembered I was married, so the babes were out but the unpaid blogger gig was suddenly in.
“He jammed himself right there!” prehistoric play-by-play man Hawk Harrelson would say.
As readers have probably learned by now I’m a fraud. My area of baseball expertise is limited to the block of 35th Street between Shields and Wentworth Avenues.
I feel bad because the Cubs are having an incredible season. I’ve written almost nothing about it and probably let down tens of thousands of Cubs fans who read The Third City.
But I’m going to make a real effort to give Cubs fans what they’ve been yearning for. Here it is Northside faithful, your Cubs report from a Sox fan…
The Cubs are on a roll! They’ve won a bunch of games lately and only lost a few.
But they couldn’t beat the White Sox Chris Sale on Sunday. Let me tell you, Sale is awesome! I’d say more but this is a Cubs post.
At first base the Cubs have Anthony Rizzo, who is kind of like the Sox Jose Abreu. And that’s real good.
Then they have Montero at catcher, Bryant at third, and Russell at short. Schwarber’s out there somewhere. Coghlan plays sometimes.
Jorge Soler is Cuban like Sox players Jose Abreu (again, good), Alexei Ramirez (mediocre), and Dayan Viciedo (deceased). So there’s that.
Hey, what happened to Starlin Castro? I always liked him.
Just kidding. I like to pose this to Cubs fans for fun. If you want to watch a Cubs fan go nuts, ask about Starlin Castro.
And then there’s Jon Lester, who’s a real ace except he can’t throw to first base with a runner on. This is something else that angers many Cubs fans. They’ll talk your ear off about it if you let them. For me, I think it’s kind of cool that I can throw to first better than an all-star pitcher. It improves my sense of self-worth.
I’ve heard Jake Arrietta is good. He pitches. His ERA is low, probably. He strikes guys out from time to time, most likely.
Another guy is named Rondon. He’s the closer, I think. I wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a lineup because I’ve never actually watched him pitch. But his last name is very close to White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodon. Isn’t that neat?
Last but not least is manager Joe Maddon. Ol’ Jo-Jo. Cup o’ Joe.
So there you have it.
I’m sure it’s pretty clear now why the Cubs have been tearing up the league.
My job here is done.
Man, that was exhausting.
Editor’s Note: Chris‘ last post for The Third City was What I’m Watching…
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Back in the neighborhood where I grew up there were a lot of Olmsteads. I’m pretty sure they were all related to some degree. Some of them had interesting nicknames. The two I recall were Juggy (short for Jughead, a nickname for a nickname) and Tiger.
Tiger’s father was Harry Olmstead, who pitched in the White Sox’ minor league system for a few years in the late ‘40s. Tiger, to no one’s surprise, was a very good ballplayer.
I played baseball too. I was in a 13-15 year old league in the Cicero Park District and one year, Harry Olmstead was our coach.
He left after three games, though, because our team was made up of a bunch of irascible punks and it wasn’t worth Mr. Olmstead’s time and effort to deal with a batch of idiots. So we played without a coach.
There are many incidents from that anarchic season that still stand out in my memory. But there is one in particular that stands out the most. It involved yet another Olmstead.
This one’s name was Eldon (no nickname) and he was playing shortstop during a game in which I was pitching.
One inning a batter hit a ground ball that skipped past the mound and out toward shortstop. All Eldon had to do was move a few steps to his left and he would have easily fielded the ball. Instead he stood rooted to the infield dirt and watched the bouncing spheroid continue on its way into the grassy splendor of the outfield.
Normally, I was a very stoic person on the ball field. Whatever will be will be, que sera sera and all that stuff. However, after witnessing this unbelievable act, worthy of one of the “Black Sox” players who threw the 1919 World Series, it caused me to holler at Eldon.
“Why didn’t you catch that?”
His response baffled me.
“I thought you were gonna catch it.”
In the ensuing years, I heard that Eldon had become a musician. I hope he was better with bass clefs than he was with base balls.
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My new blog segment is called “What I’m Watching.”
I’m writing it because I know tens of thousands of The Third City readers are thinking: “I’d like to know what Chris is watching?” And I’m thinking I don’t want to disappoint them.
So here you go…
Early in the week I watched a Russian film called Leviathan.
Usually European films have a more authentic feel because the actors look more like real people.
A woman working at a fish factory looks like a woman who works at a fish factory. Unlike an American movie, where the woman working at the fish factory looks like a Gucci model. Then I can’t stop thinking “Why is this Gucci model working at a fish factory? She needs a better agent.”
That said, the lead actress in Leviathan (whose character works at a fish factory) is beautiful. The character’s name is Lilya. She’s an object of desire for two old army buddies, whose friendship falls apart over her.
It’s not the old femme fatale trope at work here. Driven to despair, Lilya is really the only sympathetic character in the film. Her partner Kolya is an insufferable drunk with a bad temper. His oldest friend Dimitriy is a lawyer who is emotionally shallow and a coward in the end.
The most plainly contemptible character is a corrupt, power-drunk politician trying to scam Kolya out of his land and livelihood.
The plot unravels with all the warmth and joy of a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
The filmmakers use an imposing whale skeleton washed up on a desolate beach as a recurring element in the movie. This is some kind of symbol, I suppose.
But after all that goes down in this dark and compelling film, all I kept thinking was the whale got off easy.
To lift my mood I turned to the Marvel Comics film enterprise.
I’m a little late to the party on Guardians of the Galaxy. But my wife and baby girl are out of town and so it’s time to catch up on superhero movies.
True to comic book form, the movie is a series of action sequences buoyed by snarky dialogue. Featured are a band of intergalactic misfits. These antiheroes quickly recognize the value of their unlikely friendship and pledge their willingness to die for each other after a couple of scenes together. With this plot formality out of the way, the galaxy guardianing is on!
An hour into multiple CGI-driven alien ass-kickings to a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, I wondered if watching this movie was making me stupider.
Economists would say that the opportunity cost of watching a movie like this is not watching or reading something that would otherwise broaden or challenge my mind. In that sense, the movie was making me more of a moron.
But otherwise I would’ve been listening to Hawk Harrelson call the White Sox game on TV at the same time. So I decided it was a wash.
I hate to spoil Guardians for those who haven’t seen it, but they kill the bad guys and save the galaxy. And everyone is pretty stoked about it.
Which is more than I can say for this blog post.
That’s it for this edition of “What I’m Watching.” Tune in next time when I watch two shoppers fist fight over a flat screen on clearance and my weight.
Editor’s Note: Chris‘ last post for The Third City was One Fleeting, Glorious Moment…
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It rained like crazy all night long and continued on into the morning. A strange plopping sound awoke me at around five a.m.
It wasn’t the usual sound of falling rain or rain dripping from the gutters and eaves. It was different and it didn’t sound like it was coming from outside. I arose to check it out.
It didn’t take long to find the source of this foreign sound. The dripping came from the ante-room which was once my studio but now was my wife’s dressing room. Drops were dripping from an angular part of the ceiling (our roof has many angles) and plopping onto the carpet. That deep pile plopping was the sound I heard.
I grabbed a waste basket, removed the plastic bag liner and placed it under the invasive raindrops. Pleased with my provisional problem solving, I dusted off my hands and returned to bed.
Later, after completing my original tasks for the day (I must do things in the order that I planned them), which consisted of producing a couple of drawings for clients and writing a belated check to the IRS for my quarterly payment and depositing it straightaway into a mailbox, I could then deal with the situation of the leaky roof.
As Vivien was saying…
I climbed through the bedroom window onto the small landing and took a look at the area of the roof where the leakage emanated…or seemed to emanate. Everything looked fine. No loose shingles or anything that was glaringly amiss. So I climbed back out.
My next decision was to head into my attic and see if I could espy a wet spot or something that would indicate where the leakage was entering. I grabbed a bucket from the basement to catch any future rainwater and a piece of chalk so I could mark the spot.
A regular Long John Silver was I.
However, before I could climb the stairs to the attic, I’d have to clear them off. This was no simple feat as those steps were as cluttered as any garage or other storage space. Books and boots and bags and boxes as well as assorted toiletries and other effluvia filled every inch of the nine steps that lead skyward.
The rain had finally ceased a few hours earlier and the day had become extremely humid and it felt doubly humid indoors. Emptying the steps proved to be quite a perspiring effort. After removing enough objects to create a pathway, I then stuck a small flashlight in my back pocket, grabbed my bucket and headed up the treacherously narrow steps to lift the hinged and heavy piece of plywood that served as a trapdoor and entry into the attic.
The attic is unfinished. Various planks and boards are strewn about upon the studs. It is also at least tenfold more cluttered than the steps. I had to do some topsy-turvy traipsing to reach the area I needed to reach. I had to avoid the pointy nails protruding through the multi-angled roof as well as loose boards underfoot and prepare myself for any unsuspecting spiders or squirrels that might decide to scamper across the floor.
I finally reached the area of my pursuit only to discover that my flashlight was worthless. So I descended to find a better one and ascended once again, giving a repeat performance of my twisting and turning and ducking routine in the near-sauna conditions of the musty attic. But, no sign of water damage could I find.
Over-heated and considerably drippy myself, I returned to terra firma, pretty well unsatisfied.
I grabbed a cold beverage and sat outside waiting for my body temperature to return to some degree of comfort. Eventually it did and I soon discovered that I was not only feeling achy but rather weary as well. As usual, I did not pace myself but instead, plunged helter-skelter into action.
New tricks + old dog = no connection.
The sun was out and it wasn’t raining. All was right with my world for the moment so I decided to live by the words of Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”
Or, more to the point, “Fuck it.”
Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Musical Memories…
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